Tool #7 Fear Not the Long Sentence

Updated: Jan 13


Content writers should always be concerned with the readability of their blog posts. If you are a content writer, you need to take into consideration the invaluable skill of putting everything into lamen's terms. If the average reader spends less than ten seconds on your site, your Google rankings will slowly decline. He or she is probably dipping out early because your message is not clear. 


Readability, Flesch Scores, and Long Sentences, Oh My!


In this case, I am not going to lie to you. Most sentences, according to Rudolf Flesch, should be 18 words or less. In the above paragraph, the average sentence length is 16.5 words. So why did I earn a low readability score of 55%? There is more to the quality sentence than how many words are between the initial letter and the period. "The good writer must believe," according to Roy Peter Clark in his book, Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, "that a good sentence, short or long, will not be lost on the reader." 


The previous sentence contains 34 words. Not only did it score a low readability score, but Grammarly wasn't too happy about it either. She recommended splitting it into two sentences. But why? Now she doesn't like my too short of a sentence because it starts with a conjunction. Still, though, you know what I am asking. Or at least I hope you do (oh! there I go again starting a sentence with a conjunction.) I don't think it's the length of the sentence that's the problem. It's the amount of high-syllabic words, more difficult words, and the pattern of the quotation that caused Grammarly to suggest editing it. The quoted sentence, however, needs the author and title from which it came. It only makes sense to keep it as one sentence.


Content is Related to Your Audience


In essence, grammar, sentence structure, vocabulary, punctuation: all of it is relative. Figure out your target audience and consider practicing the longer sentence to paint a beautiful picture in words. 

Start with using language that the average reader understands. You can do this by choosing words with fewer syllables (no more than three and only one of those words in a sentence.) It would be best if you also considered why a longer sentence fits perfectly with what you are trying to get your reader to capture. 

 Get crafty, not wordy. Get functional, not frustrated. 


Clark recommends Tom Wolfe's advice:


Share Your Long Sentences: How'd They Turn Out?


At this point, I could provide some examples, but I am curious if you have any long sentences that you would like to share. I am more than happy to critique your long sentence, letting you know what works and what you may need to work on or revise to create a coherent and robust long sentence, such as this one. 

Remember: follow the rules established by Tom Wolfe, be mindful of those twenty-five cent words your grammar teacher taught you back in grade school, and know your audience so you can scale your sentence lengths accordingly. 


In my next post, Tool #8: "Establish a Pattern, then give it a Twist," I will show you how to develop a pattern in your writing, and then twist it up, so your readers go on a ride with your content. Until next time, don't forget to schedule a FREE CONSULTATION with me. Even if you don't know what direction your company's content needs to go in, let's talk about it, and see how I can help you! 


Sources

Clark, R. P. (2008). Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer. Columbus, GA: Little, Brown.

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